This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V20", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
I shall at present confine my observations to that portion of the State with which I am most familiar - the counties of Alameda and Santa Clara, embracing the great valley which extends from San Pueblo on the north to Gilroy on the south. This district, embracing over one thousand square miles, is one of the most important fruit sections of the State. All the fruits of the temperate climes are grown in perfection, and many of the so-called semi-tropical.
The climate is varied and much modified by the ocean winds, which are chiefly felt in the northern portion, lying near the bay of San Francisco. The southern portion is warmer and' drier, hence produces earlier fruit. It may be safely said that the whole district under cultivation produces in great perfection apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, the leading nuts, etc.
Very large quantities of the small fruits are grown. The vicinity of the San Lorenzo Creek has proved the best soil for currants, the Cherry being the leading variety, as the Red Dutch does not succeed. San Jose, Santa Clara and vicinity supply most of the strawberries used in San Francisco and the interior towns. The British Queen, an old favorite, has been discarded, and now Peabody's Seedling takes the lead. The new Monarch of the West is coming into favor.. Blackberries, raspberries and gooseberries grow well everywhere. The foreign varieties of grape do extremely well in the foothills of this entire region, and over much of the valley, but are disposed to mildew near the bay. This can be prevented by using a trellis to keep the vines oft the ground. The favorite kinds are Black Hamburg, Malvaise, Rose de Peru, Flame Tokay,. Muscat of Alexandria, Chasselas, etc.
Figs, pomegranates, olives, lemons, limes and oranges have been grown, of excellent quality, and it is not unreasonable to expect large orchards of these at no very distant day. In some sheltered places we have even fruited the banana; but this is a rare event.
The apple is extensively grown in this entire section, and in great variety. The size attained by many varieties is larger, perhaps, than in any other part of the State; but apples grown with us are somewhat lacking in that sprightly acid which characterizes the same varieties when grown in more mountainous regions. They are also lacking in keeping qualities. With few exceptions, the Winter apples of the East ripen' in the Fall or early Winter. The following apples have succeeded best with us: Early Harvest, Red Astracan, Summer Queen, American Summer Pearmain, Gravenstein, Fall Pippin, Holland Pippin, Washington Strawberry, Maiden Blush. Smith Cider, Yellow Belleflower, Rhode Island Greening, Cayuga Redstreak, or Twenty Ounce; Jonathan, Vandevere, Wagener, Canada Reinette, White Winter Pearmain, Nickajack, Ben Davis, Skinner's Seedling, Large Striped Pearmain, Yellow Newtown Pippin. The last is our best keeper, and most reliable market apple.
Pears have been grown for nearly a century at the old Spanish Missions, and both soil and climate have proved congenial in the highest degree. Large quantities are grown for the home markets and also for export. Almost all the varieties known have been experimented with; but the tendency among large growers is now to plant only a few kinds, selecting those best adapted to transportation to a distant market. The following have been most profitable : Bart-lett, Clapp's Favorite, Flemish Beauty, Seckel, Beurre d'Anjou, Beurre Clarigeau, Easter Beurre, Winter Nelis. Only second in importance are the Virgalieu, Madeleine, Bloodgood, Beurre Hardy, Vicar of Winkfield, Duchess d'Angpuleme and Glout Morceau.
The peach is grown largely in all this district south of San Leandro. This delicious fruit does not ripen so early in this region as in the warmer interior valleys; hence the attention of orchard-ists is directed mainly to the medium and the late peaches, in which we excel. For the local demand, however, all varieties are grown. Our most popular kinds are: Alexander's Early, Briggs' May, Tillotson, Strawberry, Large Early York, Shinn's Rareripe, Crawford's Early, Crawford's Late, Orange Free, Morris White, President, Salway and Smock's Late. The Thur-ber, Susquehanna, Foster, Silver Medal, Nanti-coke and many others are yet on trial. Early Beatrice is not a success.
The Cherry, also, does admirably with us if it is trained low so that the branches protect the trunk. The leading varieties are: Knight's Early, Early Purple Guigne, Elton, Black Tartarian, Gov. Wood, Napoleon Bigarreau, May-duke, English Morello. The cherry is preferred on Mazzard stock, but bears well on the Mahaleb.
The Plum, Prune and Apricot are staple crops, entirely free from insect ravages, and peculiarly adapted to our soil and climate. They market well while fresh, and are dried with ease. Our best plums are the Washington, Columbia, Peach Plum, Quackenboss, Duane's Purple, Coe's Golden Drop and Imperatrice. Of prunes, the Early Felenberg, German, Hungarian and Petite Prune d'Agen. The most popular apricots are the Early Golden, Royal, Moorpark and Hem-kirke.
The almond and English walnut are grown in. every part of the valley, with promise of entire success. Many orchards of almonds have been planted, and some have paid largely. The almond does best in a place somewhat sheltered from the north wind. A line of Eucalyptus globulus is usually sufficient protection.
There are few difficulties in the way of the-fruit-grower of this section. No destructive insects have troubled us, and we are near the leading markets of the State. In dry seasons, the increased price of fruit compensates for the short crop. But in some respects the home market is overdone, and we must make an outlet by exporting more fruit, either fresh, canned or dried. Much interest has been shown in various methods of drying, but the present tendency is towards cheap family driers, which will utilize the waste in small orchards, and enable each orchardist to prepare his own fruit.
The region whose leading varieties of fruit I have briefly described, constitutes one of the most desirable, portions of California for the orchardist. The business of raising fruit is rapidly extending, and many farmers are abandoning the growth of cereals and planting orchards and are beautifying their places. The awakening of public interest on this topic has been wonderful, and it is hardly too much to say that probably in a very few years this entire valley will be occupied by orchards, vineyards, small fruits and market gardens.